In Celebration of Earth Day, 5 Overviews of Our Planet

In celebration of Earth Day, we invited Benjamin Grant—founder of the Daily Overview—to select the five "overviews" which he considers to be among the most inspiring that his platform has shared. The image above, taken on Christmas Eve in 1968 by astronauts of NASA's Apollo 8 mission is, according to Grant, "believed by many to be the first "overview" of our planet, captured by astronaut Bill Anders." This photograph dramatically pulled into focus the simultaneous magnificence, intricacy, and terrifying fragility of the planet we inhabit. Since that moment the advent, acceleration, and accessibility of satellite imagery has made one thing abundantly clear: that humankind has had a considerable effect on Earth, for better or for worse.

Edson, Kansas (USA)

Edson, Kansas (USA). Image © Satellite images 2016, DigitalGlobe, Inc

​Center pivot irrigation fields cover the landscape surrounding Edson, Kansas, USA. The circles that you see here are created when lines of sprinklers, powered by electric motors, rotate 360 degrees to evenly irrigate crops.

This Overview is one of my favorites and has special meaning to me because it was this pattern of perfect circles that first caught my attention and helped me realize that this project was possible. I also love the vast scale of this image, covering hundreds of square kilometers, yet it still feels like a cohesive frame of satisfying geometry.

Hagadera, Dadaab Refugee Camp (Kenya)

Dadaab Refugee Camp (Northern Kenya). Image © Satellite images 2016, DigitalGlobe, Inc

Hagadera, seen here on the right, is the largest section of the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Northern Kenya – home to 100,000 refugees. To cope with the growing number of displaced Somalis arriving at Dadaab, the UN has started to move people into a new area called the LFO extension, seen here on the left. Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world with an estimated total population of 400,000.

I think this is one of the most important and powerful Overviews I’ve ever created for the project. I believe Overviews such as this have the ability to catch one's attention with vibrant colors and mesmerizing patterns, but then they can also take you to a more meaningful level where you get a better understand what is going on in different areas of our planet.

Eixample District, Barcelona (Spain)

Eixample District, Barcelona (Spain). Image © Satellite images 2016, DigitalGlobe, Inc

The Eixample District in Barcelona is characterised by a strict grid pattern and apartments with communal courtyards. This thoughtful and visionary design was the work of Ildefons Cerdà (1815–1876). His plan features broad streets that widen at octagonal intersections to create greater visibility with increased sunlight, better ventilation, and more space for short-term parking.

From an architectural stand point, I love that the Overview vantage point allows us to better understand how the urban plan of a city truly shapes it and how it impacts both human movement through it as well as social interaction. With this particular example of Barcelona, you definitely get an entirely new appreciation for Cerda's plan once you see it from above.

Port of Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

Port of Rotterdam (The Netherlands). Image © Satellite images 2016, DigitalGlobe, Inc

The Port of Rotterdam was the world’s busiest port between 1962 and 2002, but has since been surpassed by the Ports of Singapore and Shanghai. The massive docked container ships seen here can weigh up to 300,000 tonnes and extend up to 366 metres (1,200 feet).

Port complexes are always some of my favorite Overviews. I love the beauty and coloration that results from the complexity of these systems that our species has developed. There is also something magical about finding beauty in this scene as its not a place one would typically seek out for a beautiful landscape. However, when we look at it this way, it's quite stunning.

Jacksonville, Florida (USA)

Jacksonville, Florida (USA). Image © Satellite images 2016, DigitalGlobe, Inc

A turbine interchange connects two highways in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. This structure consists of left-turning ramps sweeping around a centre interchange, thereby creating a spiral pattern of right-hand traffic.

Put simply, this Overview also reinforces this idea that we can find beauty in the most unexpected of places. Our infrastructure, designed for incredibly practical reasons, can also be beautiful and something that we can view with wonder.

Daily Overview's satellite imagery is courtesy of DigitalGlobe.

Civilization in Perspective: Capturing the World From Above

About this author
Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "In Celebration of Earth Day, 5 Overviews of Our Planet" 22 Apr 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Earth "Overview". Image Courtesy of NASA


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